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MEET ME AT THE BEAR MOUNTAIN BASH

by Paul Maraschiello

The Bear Mt. Mogul Challenge is the best party at Killington. The weekend is usually blessed by sunshine and great weather. If you want to PARTY and see some great bump skiing and PARTY, put this event on your MUST list and meet me there. It will be on the weekend of April 8-9th this year.

The last time I was at the Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge, , I was up and on the mountain early. I rode up the K1 Express chair and took a warm-up run on Cascade and then skied the Glades and East Fall. Next I took a run down the Canyon. The snow conditions were excellent, so I took a few more runs and began looking for the best snow. It did not take me too long to decide that the best skiing of the day was on Superstar.

BUMP CONTEST

When I arrived at Bear, the sun was shining and there was a nip in the air. The snow had set up over night and the conditions were firm. I took a run down Wildfire to warm up and then I was ready to ski Outer Limits. The bumps were big (not as big as VW's but BIG) and the snow was VERY firm. I skied the top fairly well, but ran out of legs half way down. The sun needed to shine on the snow a little more, to soften it up and then it would be perfect. For the rest of the run it was make a few turns and stop, make a few more turns and stop, etc. all the way to the finish line where I shot a lot of film of the competitors.

I got some great shots of the preliminary rounds. There were a lot of really great bump skiers trying out for the contest. Most of them were really good at turning in the bumps but lacked what it takes in the air. Many contestants would ether fall in the landing of the first jump or land so far back on their skis that they were in trouble. Outer Limits is the LAST place you want to find yourself in the back seat, going down a mogul run at speed could be a disaster! I have to hand it to them, may of the bumpers were able to recover and put on a great demonstration of mogul skiing, even if it was just riding their skis straight down the fall line at high speed to cross the finish line.

The party at the base was really great! There were thousands of people and Killington had the grill out on the porch where they were doing burgers, sausage, chicken, and steak. They also a pig roast, sushi bar, clam bar and plenty to drink. The sun was shining and it was really a great day.

BACK AT BEAR

I was at Killington, skiing all of my favorite trails: the Canyon, Bear Claw, Cascade, Downdraft, Wildfire, East Fall, Escapade, Superstar, Skylark, and others. I was there to cover the freestyle competition and to celebrate my birthday. I arrived on Sunday and skied Outer Limits to warm up. They had groomed the left side across from the race course and I had no trouble navigating the hill with my camera equipment.

After shooting the race from the finish line, I decided to move up to the 1st jump and take some shots. I stationed myself right at the 1st jump on the narrow piece of snow that ran from the edge of the mogul course, down the side of Outer Limits, right under the chair. I had a wonderful view of the race.

Chris Brun from Northern Ski Works came in 1st for the men. Iginio Rovetto the owner of Pizza Jerks came in 2nd and David Rowels from the Black & Blue Ski Club cam in 3rd. A.J. Dakoulas (who is only 11) came in 4th. Man, this kid is going to be AWESOME when he is 12!

When I interviewed Chris Brun he said, "The race was unbelievable and the best organized. FIS World Cup style judging was in effect on the qualifying runs and the course was man-made with seeded bumps. This made the course perfect and the conditions were ideal." Chris won this event in 1997, was 4th in 1995, and placed 3rd in 1990 and 1992 and 1993. "The sport has come a long way in the past few years and it was good to see the spectators having a good time on the hill. This kicks off an elite season for the bumpers and hard core people at Killington," he said.

Gale Jaeck from the Killington ski school came in 1st, Amanda Leskinen placed 2nd, Chelsi Marshal was in 3rd place, and Lora Deblasio in 4th. Last year, positions were reversed with Chelsi in 1st Place and Gale in 3rd. The female competition was really tight. "The head-to-head was really intense and I had to stay really focuses. I knew I was ready to take 1st position. For me, it was a five-year process to win 1st place. I started the competition when I was twenty and finally one when I was 25," said this new champion. "The conditions were very conducive to good bum skiing. The course was GREAT." She has just achieved her Level III PSIA Certification and private lessons can be arranged through the ski school.

After I got done shooting the race, I put on my skis and skied down the narrow piece of snow to the right of the mogul course, directly under the chair lift. I skied the same section of Outer Limits as the competitors did and I skied it well.

GROOMED FLAT

Skiing Outer Limits when its smooth is another interesting experience. On one of my many visits to Killington, the entire left side of Outer Limits was groomed flat and smooth ... flat, smooth and STEEP. It beckoned to me when I first saw this huge expanse of gleaming snow. Now, at last I could tame Outer Limits, I thought. I hopped off the lift and pointed my skis down hill. In no time at all, I was really cooking, a huge roster tail of snow was flying off the back of my skis. This was truly an exhilarating run! I was carrying more speed than I was comfortable with but I was skiing Outer Limits and skiing it well. Turn after turn, I kept picking up speed. If I hooked an edge, I'd be in trouble, BIG trouble. I was skiing over my head, but my edges were holding. Finally, I was at the bottom. I had successfully skied Outer Limits from top to bottom without stopping. My legs were shaking from muscle fatigue, and I had skied faster than I had ever skied in my life, but I had done it!

I still have my problems in the bumps on Outer Limits. It all depended on the snow. When the snow as good, I can usually link my turns and ski it well. If the bumps are really big, I'm only able to ski the first third of the slope before fatigue sets in and I run out of legs and need to stop and rest for a minute on the top of a mogul. Refreshed, I continue down the hill and make mandatory stops, as necessary.

When the conditions aren't ideal, Outer Limits always trashes me. Three or four turns, and I blow out of the fall line. I'm bounced around and forced into a traverse, or smacked into the side of the hill, playing "garage sale" with my equipment training behind me, lying on the snow. I try to pick my days and now only ski Outer Limits when the conditions are ideal. Over confidence still gets me in trouble and I pay the price demanded by the god of Bear Mountain.

When I look back at my running battle with Outer Limits, I have to admit Outer Limits has won more often than I have. Those moguls ARE bigger than Volkswagens and they have trashed me more than I like to admit. On most days, I only survive. On some days, like this last visit, when the snow is just right, I am the victor. I descend through the moguls linking my turns, absorbing the bumps with my knees, forcing my tips down the front of the moguls and carving my turns. Taking a little air, as an act of defiance to the god of the mountain, I make my decent on the toughest terrain in the East looking good for a change. The few times I have beaten the mountain keeps me coming back for more. Some day, I hope perfect runs will become more common. Maybe the god of Bear Mountain will relent and allow me to caress its slopes with my skis, without the tribute paid in pain. Meanwhile, I keep trying.

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